Neil Travis - June 20, 2011

All winter long most of us were waiting for the coming of the summer season. As we sat tying flies while the snow piled up outside we were dreaming about summer time when the living would be easy. We could hardly wait to shed our winter coat for a short sleeved shirt and replace that snow shovel with a fly rod. However, summertime is not all tea and crumpets, there's stuff out there that can hurt you.

I love the sun but I'm well aware that it can do some things to my skin that are not very nice. When we talk about the dangers of getting too much sun the first thing that comes to mind is cancer, and that is a real consideration. However, a more immediate concern is a serious sun burn. Here in the Rocky Mountain West the added elevation and the thinner air is a perfect setup for a world class sunburn. In addition, the refection from the surface of the water increases the chances of getting a bad burn from the reflected rays of the sun. Even if you wear a hat the reflected sunlight can still burn your face, lips and ears.

Even in the summer when the hot sun is a threatening to burn you to a crisp, a dip in a cold mountain lake or a stream that is filled with snow melt can turn life threatening in a short period of time. Hypothermia can happen during any season but unfortunately many people do not realize that one of the most dangerous times is during the summertime. High mountain lakes and the streams that drain them remain icy cold year-around and anyone that falls into these waters needs to be aware that even during the summer this can be a life threatening situation.

Even as I write this there is a long list of bloodsuckers that are preparing to hatch, and they can hardly wait to stick their bloodsucking mouthparts into your tender skin. As irritating as their bites may be the real danger is the various diseases that they may transmit to you. Ticks carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus and potentially a host of other infectious diseases.

Those ominous black clouds way off in the distance may never get to where you are fishing but the lighting that they are generating might. Lighting has been known to strike several miles away from the storm that produced it. Of course, if the actual storm comes your way it may produce more than just lighting. Recent storms around the world have been producing some real big hail, and being caught out in the open during one of these events can leave you with bruises you will not soon forget.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside such wonders as Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, and Poison Oak are lying in wait for the unwary. Then of course there are stinging nettles, an army of thistles, not to mention pollen from every kind of plant from grasses to pine trees.

Short of hiding under your bed until winter comes again what's a fella to do? The key to a safe and enjoyable summer season is to be aware and prepared.

We need sunshine for Vitamin D but like most things we can get too much of a good thing. Long sleeved shirts, sun screen and broad-brimmed hats will save you from a looking like a ripe tomato after a day in the sun. Don't forget the sunglasses to protect your eyes and lip balm with sun screen added to protect your lips.

Be cautious around cold water and if you accidentally fill your waders or get soaked in a fall don't assume that you will dry off in the sun and you will be alright. Get out of those wet clothes and into something that is dry. If dry clothing is not readily available wring out your wet clothes and build a fire or get into a vehicle with a heater. This advice also applies if you get soaked in a cold rain. You can avoid the latter situation by always carrying a good rain jacket and having the common sense to use it.

Mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers and biting flies can be deterred by using a repellent with a high Deet content, wearing long-sleeved shirts, hats, and long pants. If you live where chiggers are found avoid walking through high grass, liberally apply repellent to the cuffs of your pants, around your belt line and the cuffs and collar of your shirt. Check yourself for ticks if you are in an area where they are common.

Severe weather, especially storms that have high winds, large hail and lightening are some of the most dangerous situations anglers will face during the summer season. Hundreds of people are permanently injured each year from being struck by lightning. People struck by lightning suffer from memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, chronic pain, numbness, dizziness, stiff joints, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms and depression. On average 58 persons are killed each year in the United States by lightning.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Check the local weather forecast before heading out for the day, and be aware of changes in the weather. In mountainous areas thunder storms can build up quickly and they are often hidden by mountains. If you hear thunder seek shelter immediately in a substantial structure or a metal roofed vehicle. Don't presume that you are safe. Get off elevated areas such as hills, mountains or mountain ridges. Get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water. Stay away from barbed wire fences, power lines and other objects that can conduct electricity. If no suitable structure is available don't take shelter under trees, and never lie flat on the ground. If you're caught out in the open crouch down in a ball and, if possible, balance on the balls of your feet. Try to minimize your contact with the ground. If you have a fly rod or other type of fishing rod lay it horizontally on the ground, preferably at a distance from you. Remain in a safe spot for 30 minutes after you hear the last rumble of thunder.

In each of scenarios you need to be aware and take the necessary steps to avoid the danger. The old adage is true: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

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